New political cycle: the opposition is on its own trail
The inability to solve its main strategic task (the regime change) inflicts competition among the opposition forces or forces them to act in collective self-defense. All tactics proposed by the opposition to counteract Lukashenko have already been proved unsuccessful before and will be successfully neutralized by the authorities in the future.
In the course of the week, various political forces in Belarus made a number of statements and decisions about their future political activities.
On November 8th, the United Civil Party Political Council called for the selection of a single opposition candidate via primaries. Before the year-end the party intends to consult with 13 political structures, which were to take part in the primaries in 2009, as well as with new political actors. Earlier, the Liberal Democratic Party of Belarus also expressed the desire to enter presidential race in 2015 and invited all interested and “weigh” political organizations in the country to determine their real impact in a joint mass action not later than autumn 2013. Moreover, the majority of the opposition political actors have already announced their plans to take part in the next presidential campaign.
As noted earlier, the actions of the Belarusian “conventional” and “non-conventional” (LDPB) opposition do not go beyond the electoral cycle and suggest that Lukashenko’s regime – due to efforts of his political opponents – will be forced to hold free and fair elections in compliance with international standards, and the opposition will win. At the same time, the authorities have repeatedly demonstrated that they are ready to play only by their own rules. Therefore, the repetition by the opposition of their previous electoral tactics related to building coalitions or determining a single candidate is unlikely to succeed. Another contributing factor to this is the increased competition among various oppositional political players after the last parliamentary elections in September.
At the same time, while abroad, the opposition demonstrates a desire to freeze the status quo and to protect themselves from “government in exile” project, which would threaten the existing foreign support to the opposition. Therefore, despite the mutual differences, on November 3rd, in Vilnius some opposition organizations signed a memorandum on joint activities of the Belarusian opposition and Rada of the Belarusian People’s Republic. The document recognizes the status of the BNR Rada as a non-partisan, overarching-political body of the Belarusian statehood until the democratic government is elected in Belarus. De facto, this memorandum guarantees the immutability of the BNR’s foreign authority from third parties’ attacks. In particular, previously doubts about the legitimacy of the Rada had been expressed by Borodach, Head of the newly founded Organizing Committee of the National Revival Board.
The memorandum was signed by the main Belarusian opposition forces: United Civil Party (A. Dobrowolski), “Young Front” (Nikolai Demidenko), Rada of the Belarusian intelligentsia (Kolosov), “Nash Dom” campaign (Olga Karatch), “For Freedom” movement (Aliaksandr Milinkevich), Belarusian Social Democratic Hramada (Stanislav Shushkevich), BPF (Aliaksey Yanukevich), Conservative-Christian Democracy Party BPF (Zianon Paznyak), organizing committee of the Belarusian Christian Democracy, the Organizing Committee of the National Revival Board (Vladimir Borodach), Organizing Committee of “Belaruski Rukh” (Vintsuk Vyachorka) and Rada BNR (Ivonka Survilla).
In the short term (one-two years) the most likely scenario for the Belarusian opposition will be the continuation of competition for the right to lead the “single candidate” project, while trying to demonstrate the unity of views and tactics abroad. It should be anticipated, if the socio-economic situation in the country deteriorates, the opposition will not go beyond the electoral cycle, and will continue preparations for the presidential election, as they consider this project a priority.
The Belarusian authorities regard the Catholic conference as yet another international event to promote Minsk as a global negotiating platform. Minsk’s proposal to organise a meeting between the Roman-Catholic Church and the Russian Orthodox Church is rather an image-making undertaking than a serious intention. However, the authorities could somewhat extend the opportunities for the Roman-Catholic Church in Belarus due to developing contacts with the Catholic world.
Minsk is attempting to lay out a mosaic from various international religious, political and sportive events to shape a positive image of Belarus for promoting the Helsinki 2.0 idea.
Belarus’ invitation to the head of the Holy See for a meeting with the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church should be regarded as a continuation of her foreign policy efforts in shaping Minsk’s peacekeeping image and enhancing Belarus’ international weight. The Belarusian authorities are aware that their initiative is unlikely to find supporters among the leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow. In Russia, isolationist sentiments prevail.
In addition, for domestic audiences, the authorities make up for the lack of tangible economic growth with demonstrations of growth in Minsk’s authority at international level through providing a platform for religious, sportive and other dialogues.